The WSCL Blog

News and information about WSCL's Classical Music Programming

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Just Opened - Nov. 20, 2015

Today we open up Sharon Isbin's latest major release, a dependable holiday treat of Bach's lute suites played by this guitar master.  Hornist Denise Tryon displays her virtuosity in (mostly) new works for horn, and The Meridian Arts Ensemble  play early brass works. We take a sip from Judith Lang Zaimont's new orchestral work, and trio influenced by water imagery, and Quink Vocal Ensemble's masterful tuning of settings by British composers.

Denise Tryon, horn
ISBN# 0 90404 94552 6
Tryon's official website.
 In 1989 Tryon graduated from the famed Interlochen Arts Academy and in 1993 received her Bachelor of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston. She received the Presidential Scholarship while in the Artist Diploma Program at NEC.  She is known for her masterclasses in the US, Europe and Asia.   In 2009, Tryon founded Audition Mode, a yearly horn seminar, with Karl Pituch. In 2010 she was an International Horn Society (IHS) Northeast Workshop Featured Artist. This CD of mostly new works has some challenging works, but many with infectious rhythm and melody, and her sound is rich and creamy.

Symphony No. 4 "Cool Water"
and "Russian Summer" Piano Trio
Niels Muus, cond.
Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra
ISBN# 8 88295 33669 7
Zaimont's Official Site
More about the Sorel Organization
Lang has won many awards for her compositions and prestigious commissions.  The works on this CD are inspired by imagery of water.  She is a grantee of both National Endowments and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.  Zaimont is also a 2003 Aaron Copland Award winner and recipient of a 2005 Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship.  She has taught at several institutions including CUNY and Peabody Conservatory.  Her work is known for risk taking and music coloration.

The Lute Suites
Sharon Isbin, guitar
ERATO # 75185
ISBN# 8 25645 17518 5
Isbin's official site.
Gift-Giver's Delight!  From the very beginning, Bach's lute suites have been played on other instruments.  World renowned guitarist Isbin joins the tradition with her usual sparkling virtuosity.  The combination of these timeless works and her artistry make this a great choice for gift giving (even for those who think they "don't like classical music"). Beautiful music for the holidays and on into the new year.

Quink Vocal Ensemble
Music of Elgar, Stanford, Bridge, Parry,
Vaughan Williams & Moeran
ISBN# 5 028421 95216 1
Quink's official site.
In keeping with our series focus on late Romantic era British composers this month, comes this CD of song cycles and individual favorites by many of our featured composers.  In 1983 Quink received its first international recognition when the group was named finalist in a major European music competition, and they have been going strong ever since (they tour the states twice a year).  Here, Elizabethan partsong settings by Vaughan Williams and Cycles by Moeran (Songs of Springtime) and Parry (Six Modern Lyrics) are set alongside traditional favorites sung by this versatile Dutch a capella group.

Meridian Arts Ensemble
8 BELLS # 6
ISBN# 7 00261 37354 6
Meridian Arts Ensemble Official Website
This all-male brass ensemble has created a diverse catalogue of recordings; original compositions from their own members, afro-Cuban and South American folk, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa, & renaissance and baroque music.  They have performed around the world and won awards for their innovative programming and "high octane" performances.  This CD, with it's focus on traditional brass works of early and Baroque composers (Byrd, Corelli, Gabrielli, Bach and others) is another Holiday suitable CD that can take you into the new year with brassy confidence.

Join us again next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Just Opened - Nov. 13, 2015

Traditional classics juxtoposed with new works today on Just Opened.

Symphony No. 5 & No. 7
Manfred Honeck, Music Dir.
Pittsburgh Symphony Orch.
ISBN # 0 30911 27182 4
More info on this recording.
New recordings of Beethoven's beloved, now traditional Symphonies are getting quite rare.   These works were the closing program of last season's Beethoven Fest.  What a treat to have new recordings of these all time greats!

music of Lou Harrison &
John Luther Adams
Alison Bjorkedal, harps
John Schneider, guitars
ISBN# 7 00261 42878 9
This CD has all ready made it through the first phase for the 2015 Grammy Awards, and is under consideration in several categories.   I'm very lucky to know musicians who are incredibly talented and also committed to combining their intellectual curiousity with their work.  Alison Bjorkedal was my first harp teacher (and a gifted, supportive teacher).  She has a fondness for new works and inventive music, and was part of a group Grammy Award win in 2014 of new music on new instruments.   Meanwhile, she has been working with a group of musicians, "Just Strings" on modern works composed in "just" tuning.   (This is a different tuning mode from the "even-tempered" tuning of Bach that is now the standard that we're used to for concert - and pop - music.  See links below for more info.)  She plays a variety of harps on this CD, and the other strings are played by John Schneider on a variety of guitars.  Joined by T.J. Troy on percussion and the HMC American Gamelon, you know you're in for a sound world infused with ancient world music and folk traditions.  Don't be put off by the "just tuning" aspect of these works - if you didn't know about that, you would just know that they have the sound of world music.   While this CD may be very challenging for those who just want to hear traditional works like the Beethoven Symphonies, for many others, this CD will be a revelation, and have great-cross over appeal to people who appreciate many diverse genres.  Some of the works have a sound of ancient tunings and instruments, while others are redolent of American folk.  These works are tuneful, very accessible, and create vivid sound pictures.
     For a fuller explanation of Just tuning, here are some articles:
    Wikipedia: Just_intonationAn explanation of Just TuningJust Intonation Explained

Shen Lu, piano
More information on Shen Lu & this CD.
My Delight of the week. I've been listening to this CD almost every day since I took the shrink wrap off it.  A native of Jiangsu, China, Shen Lu has performed concerts in Beijing, Carnegie Hall in New York, Boston, Cleveland, The Kennedy Center, Los Angeles, Sydney, and in Dublin. He was a prize-winner at multiple  International Piano Competitions, and won best French music prize for Ravel’s Miroirs at the 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition, the central work on this CD.  Pixum Chen's exquisite "Autumn Moon on a Calm Lake" starts off the painterly pieces, along with Racmaninov's "Etudes Tableaux" and Tan Dun's glittering tone pictures, "8 Memories in Watercolor."  The recording was part of the winner's package for one of his awards, and it is marvelously performed & recorded, and an emotionally touching first recording.

Matthew Hunt, clarinet
Alastair King, composer/conductor
Chamber Orchestra of London
ISBN# 8 89211 60454
"Concertinfouro was written as a surprise 40th birthday present for my wife, Claire, who is a clarinetist.  It was given a first performance just a few weeks later on Saturday 24th March 2012 by the Argyle Orchestra with Claire playing the solo clarinet and myself conducting."  The CD recording that features Matthew Hunt is a short CD that includes the full work on one cut (about 13 minutes), then each movement in separate cuts.  Not only was this work composed as a labour of love, but it is FULL OF MELODY, fun and accessible.  It is easy to envision this work becoming a concert staple, and a favorite of the clarinet concerto repertoire.

Join us next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, October 30, 2015

Just Opened - Oct. 30, 2015 - Composer focus.

Exciting performers from the concert world presenting beloved time tested works and a few new works, too, with a focus on the Composers:  Bach, Puccini, Ravel, and Lieuwen.

According to Anna Magdalena
Matt Haimovitz, baroque cello & piccolo cello
ISBN# 8 27949 05556 0
Short biography of Anna Magdalena Bach
picture of a violoncello piccolo
(Note that the cello on the cover of this CD is the piccolo cello played by Haimovitz.)   Having recorded the Bach Cello Suites earlier in his career, Haimovitz has continued his studies over the years, hoping to find the clearest line of the composer's intention.  There being no manuscript by Bach of these works existing, cellists have been led by versions of other musicians.  Kellner, an acquaintance of Bach, had a version that has been greatly influential over the years.  Haimovitz has become increasingly convinced through study that the copy that belonged to Bach's second wife, Anna Magdalena had interpretive insights and articulation grammar and phrasing that have been almost entirely lost.  Adding the fact that the 6th suite was composed for the "piccolo cello", and performing that suite on this instrument, lends a completeness of approach to this entire project.   It is worth remembering that even the addition of the piccolo cello remains an element of subtlety of technique and tone; the average listener may not notice any difference in these recordings, but for those who are interested in the intricacies of phrasing and the subtleties of sound, this recording by an established artist can become an essential touchstone of interpretation.  Haimovitz continues his relationship with these works by recording newly commissioned overtures for these suites next spring.
Jonas Kaufmann, tenor
Antonio Pappano, cond.
Orchestra & Chorus of the
National Academy of Saint Cecilia
SONY #750 9249
ISBN# 8 8875 09249 2 6
Biography of Giacomo-Puccini
Gift Giver's Delight!  International heart-throb tenor Jonas Kaufmann released this CD in September, after years of having performed Puccini's heros on the great stages of Opera all over the world.  His European tour this fall is largely comprised of the works on this CD.  This month he has released a new Cinematic release of his concert from Teatro alla Scala, with behind the scenes glimpses.  Kauffmann has been hailed by "The Daily Telegraph" as "the greatest tenor of our day."  His is joined on some of the works by soprano Kristine Opolais, who has partnered with him in two productions of Manon Lescaut.
YUJA WANG (piano)
Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
Lionel Bringuier, cond.
D.G. #4794954
ISBN# not available currently
My Delight of the Week!  When a young piano virtuoso is continually hailed for her sartorial style as much as her phenomenal technique and musicality, when she becomes the model for Rolex watches internationally,  meanwhile performing some of the greatest works of the piano repertoire with the world's most renowned orchestras, we have the kind-of cross-over stardom that exceptionally few classical musicians achieve.  While other artists can become sidelined, subsumed or marginalized by these extra-musical factors, Wang has been able to deftly incorporate them into her being as a musician with a larger sense of herself as an artist on the world stage.  In this CD she performs two major concertos by Ravel, and a rarely heard "concertino" of Faure (one of my favorite works, his "Ballade for Piano & Orchestra") in an even more rarely heard solo piano version.  Brava!

The Music of Peter Lieuwen
SOLI Chamber Ensemble
Cumberland Wind Quintet
Various Soloists
MSR #1581
ISBN# 6 81585 15812 8
Lieuwen's compositions have been acclaimed for their orchestral balance, his instrumental palette, and their attractive, shimmering sonorities.  Influenced by the rhythms of jazz and world music, and by  romantic era impressions of nature and landscape.  These come together to form new music that has melody and accessibility that the listener wants to hear again.  This ability to engage both performers and audience has been rewarded with commissions and performances by leading orchestras on the world stage from the Royal Philharmonic and Orchestra of the Americas and the National Orchestra Association.  Born in the Netherlands and raised in New Mexico, Lieuwen currently is on faculty at Texas A&M University, where he served as the first head of their Department of Music Performance Studies.

We hope you enjoied today's exploration of Composers on Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Spellbound trivia...

Our After the news at Noon series this month is "Spellbound" music about witches, enchantment, goblins, gnomes, devils and all things leading up to a celebration of Halloween.

Today, while playing a portion of Rosza's score for the Hitchcock film, "Spellbound"  I mentioned the large cuts made to Salvador Dali's Dream/Hypnosis Sequence.   (The sequence initially ran 20 minutes on it's own, and it's a loss to film and art that a copy of the full sequence was not saved... but editing is the essence of film art.) 

At the bottom of this blog post you will find photos from the deleted sequence:  Bergman as a greek statue come to live, and ballroom with grand pianos suspended from the ceiling with chamber musicians on top of them!

I'm not endorsing the blog (and have to be a bit curious as to whether the blog posted has rights to all these photos), but while I've seen some of the Bergman photos deleted from the dream sequence, this is the first time I've found/seen any photos of the deleted ballroom scene.

I hope you enjoy this little trivia tidbit along with the music!
Kara Dahl Russell

Friday, October 23, 2015

Just Opened - Oct. 23, 2015

This week on Just Opened, we have three "big" releases, by violinist Anne Akiko Myers and the London Symphony Orchestra, a new solo release from pianist Lang Lang, and Rachel Barton Pine picking up the obscure viola d'amore and making it her own on the works of Vivaldi written for this instrument..   We also have one "smaller" release, the mother and daughter Van Hoesen harp duo "Genetic Harps."   All of today's artists have international careers.

The Complete Viola D'Amore Concertos
Rachel Barton Pine
Ars Antiqua
ISBN#7 35131 91592 2
 My Delight of the Week!    Regular WSCL listeners know that rarity ranks high with me, and here we have one of the top violinists in the world picking up one of history's more obscure intruments (playing a beautiful historic one from 1774) and recording concertos composed for it by one of history's favorite composers.  This follows closely on Pine's recent 3 CD set of the works of Veracini with Trio Setticento, so we can only assume she is going through a Baroque phase and let out a collective sigh of pleasure!

The Love Album
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin
London Symphony Orchestra
Keith Lockhart, cond.
ISBN#0 99923 77922 3
Gift Giver's Delight.  While the focal point piece of this CD is Bernstein's cerebral "Serenade after Plato's Symphosium" - which some will find of interest, and others will want to skip all together forever - the rest of the CD is filled to the brim with memorable favorite tunes in beautiful arrangements for violin and orchestra.  The orchestral settings of these favorite love themes are almost edible, incredibly luscious and fullfilling.  While we first aired this CD today, we were all ready receiving notes from listeners that they love this CD!

Chopin & Tchaikovsky
SONY 751 1758 (2 CD set)
ISBN# 8 8875 11758 2 2
Lang Lang has been hailed as one of the greatest pianists of our day.  Indeed, in a field crowded with talented, technically proficient, magnificently trained, musically nuanced pianists, Lang Lang has the kind of career that simply "does not exist anymore" for most musicians, the legendary kind of career as we hear of from the Romantic era, similar to those of Clara Schumann, Moszkowski, and Liszt.  After several releases of major concertos with world class orchestras, he tosses out this solo release to us; an exclamation of scherzos by Chopin, and Tchikovsky's epic calendar of music, "The Seasons."  Lang Lang says the seasons is not as filled with notes as some works, but the use he makes of the note create melodies with the kind of pain  that turns into beauty.  "He presents his heart, and he holds your heart."

Gretchen Van Hoesen
Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton
ISBN# 8 89211 70874 1
Mother and daughter harpists, both award winners with international careers, the Van Hoesen's both hold principle harp chairs, Gretchen with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and Heidi with the Toronto Symphony.  As a duo they specialize in finding and arranging new and old works for harp duo (and they also perform symphonic concertos for two harps). They have performed as a duo extensively in PA, and around the united states.   The program on this CD is excessively listenable with beloved works by Debussy, Da Falla, Ravel, Dussek, infectious new works by Schocker and Curcio, and a trio of Irish Airs in settings by Reynaldo Hahn.

Join us again next week for more new releases, Just Opened.
 Kara Dahl Russell

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Just Opened - October 9, 2015 Fall Fundraising Drive

This is the first Friday of our Fall Fundraising Drive.  You know the drill... if you love great "classical" music, and you want to be sure it is available in local programming on WSCL (shows like Just Opened), now is the time to support it!

National Brass Ensemble
ISBN# 7 51778  16677 0
Naxos label info. on the National Brass Ensemble
Traditional brass works by one of the all-time great brass composers, played by an award winning group of musicians.  'nuff said!

Yo Yo Ma, cello
Kathryn Stott, piano
SONY 10316
ISBN# 88875 10316 2 3
Gift Giver's Delight!  This CD just hit stores and on-line download on Sept. 18th.  Any release by Mr. Ma is a major release, and this time he is working with a long-time collaborator Ms. Stott. This is a collection of immensely appealing melody driven works, some of them initially intended for vocalist, all of them qualify as classical "pop hits."

Bartok & Mendelssohn Violin Concertos
Miquel Harth Bedoya, con.d
Norwegian Radio Orchestra
AVIE 2323
ISBN# 8 22252 23232 5
The Mendelssohn violin concerto is a favorite of many great music lovers, and is held here in interesting contrast with the Bartok.   Hadelich continues his meteoric rise adding breadth and variety to his recording palette.

Jake Schepps Quintet
Website of Jake Schepps
ISBN# 7 00261 40871 2
Jake Schepps and his folk quintet recently performed at the Avalon theatre in Easton.  This CD is part of a growing trend of what I call "concert folk."   These are new works - "concert works" - for folk quintet.  If the point being made is that these instruments are being played with technique and artistry, and true mastery, point taken without reservation.   Unfortunately, these works are neither fish nor fowl, not really appealing to those who come to hear the group play folk music, and the "orchestration" of the band means that the sound is exceptionally foreign to a traditional concert goer.  In their construction and "modern music" exploration, these works would be a challenge in any arena, and the works remain best suited to a jazz/folk crossover rather than folk/classical.  It's an interesting premise being attempted here, to legitimize the folk instruments without changing their balance or sonority. In the classical era, composers like Fernando Sor worked to legitimize the guitar by writing pedagogy and intensely appealing melodic works - and it worked - I wish there were a little more of that in these compositions.

James Brawn, piano
MSR 1468
ISBN# 6 81585 14682 8
This was the first of Brawn's "Beethoven Odyssey" and includes beloved sonatas like the Pastorale, and "To Therese" which was a personal favorite of Beethoven in an odd 2 movement form.  Beethoven felt it was equal to, or better than his popular "Moonlight" sonata.  We've actually been receiving these Brawn releases out of order from the label, so it's nice to get the first one, and recognize it as a wonderful "start" to the extensive and impressive series. 

Adrian Chandler, violin & director
La Serenissima
AVIE 2344
ISBN# 8 22252 23442 8
Official website for La Serenissima
Rave reviews from BBC3, Gramophone Magazine,  The New York Times, Early Music Review, The Classical Reviewer... it was only a matter of time until Chandler and La Serenissima tackled - what is perhaps THE seminal work of Baroque Repertoire - Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.  Fortunately for us, Chandler combines this well known and loved work with much less well known works for violin and bassoon, giving us a refreshing mix.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Just Opened - Oct. 2nd, 2015

Favorites from many time periods today on Just Opened.

Piano works by
Debussy, Ravel & Kapustin
A commanding release of beloved familiar works by Debussy and Ravel, and one lesser known composer; Kapustin's Concert Etudes have been called "an encyclopedia of piano technique" and are in the "feuille d'album" form of salon pieces.   Pirojenko has won a firework display of awards, and this assured, nuanced, masterful CD is exactly what one would expect and hope for.

Geoffrey Andrews, tenor
ISBN# 8 88295 24790 0
Gift Giver's Delight.  A "natural" tenor with a powerful voice from Texas, who went to Nashville to try his luck and hit gold in the form of the production team of Hooper and Kevern, known for their classical crossover accousitc orchestra work.   Having overcome an infant bilateral clubfoot deformity, and living with tourette syndrome, he has the kind of "back story" to make him the darling of the "reality tv" set.  These logistics all fall away when we hear his powerful, clear, balanced voice.

Piano Concertos
Vadym Kholodenko, piano
Miquel Harth-Bedova, cond.
Norwegian Radio Orchestra
ISBN# 0 93046 76292 6
My Delight of the Week.  I'm personally so very happy to see and hear that Grieg is coming back into favor in concert halls and recordings after what has seemed like a long winter of absence.  As one might expect from a Van Cliburn winner (2013), critics have been trowing bouquets, praising theses performances as "as tender as you might want... and... passionate but not overwrought."  This welcome pairing of Grieg with Saint Saens' 2nd Concerto makes it a "no brainer" to add to your collection, especially if you do not have these works in your library.  Grammpone's Jeremy Nicholas called this Grieg "a truly outstanding recording" and said the Saint Saens was "even better" and thrilling!

Aralee Dorough, flute
Scott Holshouser, piano
ISBN# 7 00261 39071 0
Accomplished orchestral flautist Dorough shines in these transcriptions of orchestral works.  Most of these works all ready heavily featured the flute, so these reductions feel absolutely natural.  The choice of material has been smart (like starting the CD with Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn"), so that we rarely feel the lack of the orchestra, merely the flute being brought into forward focus, which allows us to bask in Dorough's painterly approach to ... colours.  She is joined by Judy Dines on a second flute part (with Hoshouser still holding down the orchestral reduction with a masterful blend of virtuosity and support) on a rousing closing work, the ever popular Stravinsky "Pulcinella Suite."

Zoe Black, violin
Joe Chindamo, piano
ISBN# 7 24131 54960 2
Chindamo made his name as a jazz pianist and has been recognized by great musicians of all genres, performing in concert halls with orchestras, rock bands and big names of all kinds of genres.  Aside from performances on over 23 CDs of his own, and countless with other groups, he has achieved recognition as a composer of chamber works.  To those credentials he offers this labor of love ... Bach's major keyboard work with counterpoint for violin.   What we have is a calling card of technical proficiency and variety for both piano and violin.  Zoe Black is completely up to the challenge of what - in this - amounts to an extensive and virtuosic violin "variation cycle".  Critics being what they are, the reviews have been a bit mixed, some want nothing other than the original, others gripe that he didn't stray far enough in creating the violin part.   These are quibbles that are easily drowned out by simply listening to the work.  Within the past few months, some chamber versions of this same originating work have been released, so, as usual, Chindamo has his finger on the pulse of what is current and performing with verve and excellence. 

Join us again next week (during our Fall Fundraiser) for more new releases, Just Opened.
Kara Dahl Russell


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